Surprising Jobs That Have Been Around Since 1850

Back in the 1960’s or early 1970’s you might have met someone who worked as a Key Punch Operator.  My sister in law was one of them.   But she might have trouble finding stable work in that field today since computers no longer use punched cards.

There are, however, plenty of jobs that have passed the test of time, surviving tidal waves of economic change. In some ways, consumers have become nostalgic for ways of the past. Just take a look around the urban landscape of our major cities.   The artistic vibe is a throwback to the 19th century, with a culture that supports homegrown, hand-crafted, limited-edition products.  Whether it’s 1850 or 2013, this scene shows that there will always be a place for certain niche occupations.

To find the jobs that have survived for more than a century, we combed through the U.S. Census of 1850, which is the first year the government-collected data on what Americans do for work.  We then compared it to today’s Census list of the Standard Occupational Classifications, which is revised every decade and identifies 31,000 occupations in America.  Several jobs make the cut.  While some have shown predictable stability — dentists, bankers, engineers — others are more unexpected. Here are nine surprising jobs that have been around since 1850:

1. Armorers: In the past, an armorer was someone who made personal armor. Today, it is someone who maintains and repairs small arms and weapons in the military or police force.

2. Charcoal burners (2012 median annual pay is $35,530): Someone who makes charcoal.

3. Cotton ginners (2010 median annual pay is $18,970): An agriculture worker whose job consists of operating machinery and doing physical labor to produce cotton.

4. Cordwainers (2012 median annual pay is $24,310): A worker who operates and tends machines used in the production of shoeware.

5. Cork cutters (2012 median annual pay is $31,430): Someone who operates cutting machines to cut roles or slices of materials.

6. Enamellers: An artist who uses enamel paint to make jewelry and other decorative pieces.

7. Gold beaters: Someone who hammers sheets of gold into gold leaf.

8. Map makers (2010 median annual pay is $37,900): A technician that assists surveyors and cartographers in collecting data and making maps.

9. Riggers (2012 median annual pay is $42,660): A person that specializes in lifting and moving heavy objects with a crane or derrick.

Now this doesn’t mean we think you should actively consider a career as a Charcoal Burner or Cordwainer. But if you get a shot at being a Gold Beater, that might be something to look into.